Facilitating Resilience and Conflict – Conference Highlights


Last week we had over 150 people in San Diego, CA attending the IAF Conference of the Americas for the first time in 5 years! Every workshop I attended was provocative, insightful, and timely in terms of what the world needs now to change rapidly and strategically. There were speakers and participants from 22 different countries. I connected with so many loving, authentic human beings who care and generously share. In this blog I’ll share a few insights into two of the workshops I attended as well as thoughts from various participants who have posted on LinkedIn. This will give you a feel for the conference.

The first workshop I attended was called “Transforming Group Dynamics Beyond Conflicts”. We did a number of exercises that I found immensely helpful. One of them was thinking of a list of unuseful conflicts, followed by a list of useful conflicts. There are many situations where the conflict could have been completely avoided. One key example of this for me is when everyone in the room does not have access to the same information. It could also be a situation where people do not trust each other’s sources of information. When this happens, the conflict is unuseful. We can change this immediately by ensuring everyone starts on the same page and helps each other understand why they have the information they have and how they are interpreting it.

A second example of an unuseful conflict is when people have no influence over the outcomes they’re going to experience. As a facilitator, you could do more harm by building their hope when they have no power to change the situation.

There is so much more to this workshop but the 2nd exercise I’d like to share with you is the opportunity to think about how we want to appear to the group when we are facilitating conflict, and how we don’t want to appear. The words that were important to me for how I want to appear included:

  • calm
  • authentic
  • respectful
  • unflappable
  • present
  • committed
  • solution-focused
  • strategic.

I would not want to appear:

  • worried
  • anxious
  • angry
  • rushed
  • dominating
  • unfocused.

I came away with a new appreciation that our stance in the room is perhaps even more important than the tools we use to resolve conflict. This session was offered by Mirjami Sipponen-Damonte. Mirjami is from Finland and a past IAF board member. You can find her website at www.xpedio.eu.


“Our stance in the room is perhaps even more important than the tools we use to resolve conflict.”


A second workshop that was extremely helpful to me was “Facilitating Resilience”. We talked about strategic foresight and futuristic thinking. We went through a whole series of exercises to identify future scenarios and we asked ourselves four questions:

  • What’s happening today in this particular scenario?
  • What might happen in the future?
  • What impact might that future have?
  • What can we do now to prepare?

We did a STEEP analysis which some of you know by a different name: social, technological, economic, environmental and political factors. This seemed like a perfect workshop for what we have to navigate in every country, every city, every community. We can collectively gather and ask each other these questions and ensure that we enable the things we want to happen and prevent the things we don’t want to happen. This workshop was led by Mashaal Ahmed. You can find more about Mashaal at www.mashaalahmed.me.


“Enable the things we want to happen and prevent the things we don’t want to happen.”


There were many other workshops but I’m going to leave that to other participants to share their thoughts on them. Here’s a sampling below.

“Jenny Niklaus (she/her/hers) and Rangineh Azimzadeh Tehrani modeled beautifully how transformative intentional pauses can be during their session on building facilitators leadership capacity for stewarding social change. In a world that can feel like it passes by at warp speed, taking a beat to slow down — inhaling, exhaling, looking inwards then shifting your attention outwards — can feel revolutionary. It’s remarkable how much intentional silence can shift your perspective, energy and connection to self (not to mention your ability to hold space for others or process complexity). Which is why yesterday was so deeply soul satisfying. After a week of inhaling — of travelling, connecting, learning and sharing — spending some time with a new friend in the sunshine was exactly what my nervous system needed. Early in life I had big plans to become an ethnobotanist. While the research piece never panned out, I still find myself returning to plants, nature and people to recharge.” Lindsay Humber

“From Fear to Hope: the Leadership Circle Profile for Facilitators. ⭕️ We were in conversation about Leadership Circle as: ⭕️ A leadership model and philosophy (and how to use it to build a more meaningful, authentic life and vocational path). ⭕️ A powerful instrument for raising one’s self-awareness (and how to harvest this new self-awareness to grow as a human being and a facilitator). ⭕️An instrument for increasing your mastery of group dynamics. The session was designed to be highly interactive: it was 90 minute long and out of this time, 60 minutes was dedicated to 3 breakout sessions in small groups around the tables. I’m grateful to everyone who attended my session for deep engagement, open-hearted contributions, and insights!”

“I enjoyed Colene Elridge’s keynote at the #IAF #ConferenceoftheAmericas2024 in San Diego. She was funny, poignant and she made me laugh and cry. Here is my digital sketchnote of her talk. Thanks for reminding us of a Level 10 Celebration.” Rosanna von Sacken

I attended a very simple, smooth and deep session today which made me realize few of the things:

💡 How many things are hidden in us which #Facilitation helps in bringing out
💡 We are explaining in words, but words are the images in our minds. #Drawing makes them clearer .
💡 As a Facilitator how can we see what the diverse images participants are drawing through our words.

That’s the power of #Visuals. It binds every person together… Through their heart while making our doubts and dissent visible.
Thank you Charles-Louis de Maere for giving us that vision to see this through your perfect examples and processes.
Thank you Bharti Maru and International Association of Facilitators (IAF) – India for organising such event.

Nidhi S.

It was a great experience being a part of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) conference of the Americas in sunny San Diego along with facilitators coming from 22 countries! 🌞

This year’s theme, ‘Facilitation Leadership: Connecting and Shaping Tomorrow’s World,’ resonated deeply with me. Facilitation is the secret sauce that empowers future leaders to bring out the best in those around them, while effectively converging and connecting as one to achieve remarkable outcomes.

I enjoyed the learning so much, from practical tips on facilitating sessions to inspirational insights on personal growth.

Here are a few highlights from my learning journey:

1️⃣ Neuroscience of facilitation by John F. Edwards, CSP, CVP Erin Nicole Gordon
Our presence as facilitators is a powerful tool. It encompasses our physical presence, cognitive presence (how we convey our thoughts through our five senses), and emotional presence (being vulnerable while maintaining clarity of purpose). Understanding and leveraging this presence enhances our facilitation skills.

2️⃣ 30 tips to make your session more fun, welcoming, and safe by Megan Foster and Nora Sheffe
The facilitators shared 30 practical tips as a base and used them to demonstrate various techniques for running ideation jams. The result? We walked away with a hundred of tips to enrich our facilitation toolbox.

3️⃣ The Art of Silence by Yuko Gendo and Hideyuki Yoshioka
In Japanese culture, silence holds profound meaning, known as ‘MA’ (a pause) and ‘BA’ (a longer pause / the vibe). Embracing silence as facilitators allows for reflection and understanding the group dynamics to make necessary adjustments. It’s a skill that brings value to the group.

Lowene Chan


Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.


  1. Ann Epps on April 9, 2024 at 8:16 pm

    What a treat to hear snippets from the IAF Americas conference! Thanks for sharing these highlights, Barbara. All of this and IAF’s 30-year anniversary as well!

Leave a Comment